Sunday, 10 June 2018

October (2018)

There are love stories and then, there is October. 

October is easily the best romantic drama I will see in a very long time. On paper, the story may seem unfilmable, but director Shoojit Sircar and writer Juhi Chaturvedi create an artful, haunting symphony here. 

Among hotel management trainees interning at a Delhi hotel are Danish aka Dan (Varun Dhawan) and Shiuli (Banita Sandhu). Dan is an ever-complaining, irritated and short-tempered trainee. His friends, colleagues, and manager find it hard to put up with him. Dan is assigned repeated errands related to cleaning rooms and laundry. Shiuli is, on the other hand, calm and professional. 

On New Year's Eve, the trainees have a party on the hotel terrace. Shiuli sits on the terrace parapet asking, "Where is Dan?" She then slips and falls down four storeys. Severely injured, Shiuli is moved to a hospital and goes into a coma. Shiuli's mother (Gitanjali Rao), uncle and siblings arrive.

The absent Dan comes to know of the accident and visits Shiuli. He is bewildered when he discovers that Shiuli's last words were about him. Dan starts visiting Shiuli daily, even as his internship suffers and his friends and roommates fail to understand his concern for a girl he barely knows.

October is based on a true story and interprets the tragedy with insight and poetry, mingling with nature's wonders. I was constantly riveted. 

This is a rare coming-of-age story. No sexual release, no dramatic moment, no sweet exchange of sugar candy dialogues. Just quiet, melancholy change as seasons pass and life glides by.

Never have hospital visits seemed so romantic. The cinematography (Avik Mukhopadhyay), the sense of location, the overcast atmosphere, add to the mood. Varun Dhawan is earnest and seeking depth. Banita Sandhu nails an unusual, difficult role with great stillness. Gitanjali Rao is well cast as the IIT professor and mother. The supporting cast is solid too.    

Sircar explores every scene minutely. The 115-min running time, the deliberate use of minimal background music and the absence of songs, add to the film's impact. Nothing is underlined or overstated.  

Is caring for a person you barely know, love? Is just giving love enough? How selfless can you be in love? What if you never knew whether the other person loved you? How many romantic films make you ask these questions?   

October left me with the fragrance of the night jasmine long after the end credits rolled. Don't miss it.    

Friday, 18 May 2018

Deadpool 2 (2018)

A man lands his crotch on another man's face. Four parachuting heroes meet gruesome deaths. A man grabs another superhero's steel butt. Arms are ripped off, a body is torn to half, bullet holes, beheadings, explosions and every other bloody mess.   

Full of adult humor, numerous movie & pop culture references (you could miss many), bloody slashing violence, irreverent monologuing and superficial comic book plot, Deadpool 2 is mature audience fun while it lasts, a potato wafer-thin plot and without any takeaways. 

There is some pump when a wife dies and a superhero blows himself to bits, but the rest of it is at best bumpy and uneven. 

All things CGI are thrown at us, there is merciless brutal humor, and somehow Deadpool 2  stays afloat despite all the smash, nonsense, and sexual references. 

Deadpool 2 is still strictly for a diehard Marvel movie franchise fan. That soap bubble comic book plots don't make great cinema is proved right again. 

Not that the filmmakers are attempting to make a classic here. Marvel has gone for light entertainment and profited, art be damned! They are still counting up the Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther collections.    

For an adult superhero action comedy movie, Deadpool 2 has some great laughs, thanks to the performances of Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool/Wade Wilson), Josh Brolin (Cable), Zazie Beetz (Domino), T.J.Miller (Jack Hammer/Weasel) and Karan Soni (Dopinder!). 

The "film laughing at itself" tone also props up the movie. When the plot winks at itself too many times, it does get tiresome though.  

You may also see why we may not want to watch comic book movies all the time. For me, watching Deadpool 2 was like eating popcorn. You just like that familiar crunchiness and think no more. 

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

What Marvel Studios has got right in a decade-long procession of adapting their comic book heroes, starting with Ironman (2008) is the enjoyable replication of comic book fun, crackling superhero team chemistry, and oodles of irrelevancy. 

Avengers: Infinity War has a simple good vs evil premise with mega epic possibilities. 

The gigantic purple-colored Thanos is searching for the six powerful infinity stones. Once he gets them all, he only has to snap his fingers and half the universe will cease to exist! Attempting to stop him are The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and many rebel superheroes. 

Wanted: Tighter Story
Packing in over two-dozen superheroes from all previous Marvel movies does not hinder the movie. There is crackling chemistry among all the characters, many funny one-liners that work smoothly with the impressive, well-detailed action sequences and VFX. 

Ending Doesn't Add Up
The multiple threads of Avengers: Infinity War required a stronger, tighter story. The danger here is more serious and threatening than seen in every other Marvel movie so far. 

The gigantic scale required convincing subplots, clearly missing here. That is why the shocker of a grim ending doesn't add up to the otherwise lively, funny, feather-light ambiance. 

Fear Not! There's Always a Sequel... 
Die-hard Marvel fans will find it hard to get over the mind-crumbing, heart-sinking ending. But do not be grim, there is always a sequel lurking around the corner.  

Avengers: Infinity War does set up a challenging premise for an "explain-it-all-off" sequel. As the post-credits sequence hints, Captain Marvel and possibly other new superheroes will soon make heroic grand entries. 

Despite the 160-min running time, Avengers: Infinity War is a largely entertaining watch for superhero movie fans.